Image Credit: CBSEarlier this month, we sat down with NCIS‘ Michael Weatherly to chat about his contract negotiations (he was confident he’ll return for season 8, though no deal has yet been announced) and the show’s season 7 finale (May 25). Pressing him for spoilers over a martini, we soon realized, was futile. So, we administered an EW Pop Culture Personality Test, which the actor who plays film buff Tony DiNozzo more than aced. One note: Weatherly got an assist from his doctor wife, Bojana Jankovic, who joined us for our chat and learned a few things she hadn’t known about her husband. Like that in 1991, he acted in a karaoke video.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When do you yell at the TV?
MICHAEL WEATHERLY: Mad Men. Any time Don Draper f—s up. Or Betty decides that she’s gonna have an affair with a stranger in a bar. I’m like, “Nooo! Just because he’s an a–hole, you don’t have to be one!” Or when she goes off with the guy who’s the senator’s aide, and you’re like, “He’s not even handsome. Nooo!” Betty frustrates me. What happens with Mad Men, it’s like an Elvis Costello album, I’ll watch it, and then I immediately have to watch it again. AMC will play it back-to-back. I have a tendency to yell at it when my wife’s not around because if she catches me yelling at Mad Men, then it gets weird. [To Bojana] Is there anything that you catch me yelling at? I love House Hunters International.
BOJANA JANKOVIC: But you don’t yell — oh yeah, we do. When they pick a house that we’re like, “WHAT? They picked that house?” [Both laugh]
MW: And sometimes I’ll yell at The Unsellables, that’s another HGTV show.
You’re an HGTV fan — I never would have known this.
MW: Yeah, but let’s talk about my favorite television shows: 60 Minutes, Cold Case, Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, NCIS:LA, CSI: Miami, CSI, CSI: New York. I’m a big, big fan of Survivor and The Amazing Race. And when I can watch Ghost Whisperer, then Medium, I’m very happy. I only watch Letterman and Craig Ferguson. Do you know Harry Smith on CBS’ Early Show?
That’s definitely worth more money an episode.
MW: Right? Come on. [Laughs]
What are the shows you really have to watch?
MW: 30 Rock and Modern Family hit me where I live. [30 Rock‘s] Jenna… Sometimes I feel like I’m a little like Jenna. [Laughs] I know that’s not good in any shape or form, because she’s delusional. But when she went to talk to her stalker — my stalker dumped me? I just thought that was the funniest thing in the world. That is so consistent with the desperation that you see around you.
A chick flick that you’ll admit to liking?
BJ: I know I’ve made him watch one.
MW: Yes, you have… Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It’s just a funny title. I’ve never seen it, but I think that I would like it.
What movie were you made to watch?
MW: Sex and the City. I mean, I had to take a picture of her and her friends next to the f—ing poster. You don’t understand. It’s not a little thing, it’s a big thing.
BJ: My friend is really into it.
MW: Oh, your friend is really into it? You are deeply into it. You pulled the car over to look at the poster [for Sex and the City 2] the other day.
The movie you have to watch every time you spot it on cable?
MW: 48 Hrs. You’ll find it on some local affiliate with a bad sync. Have you seen 48 Hrs. recently? Eddie Murphy singing “Roxanne” — I mean, is that one of the funniest things? You can’t lose. Any part of that movie, you start watching it and you’re like, “I’m in.”
The person you wrote a fan letter to when you were young?
MW: Ray Davies of the Kinks. There was never any response, but I never really expected one because I didn’t ask for one. I wrote to him in about 1981 or ’82, I was maybe 13. I had been listening to the Kinks a lot. I really loved “Waterloo Sunset,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” A lot of people were listening to the Doors, or Styx, or REO Speedwagon, or whatever the hell you were listening to, ELO. But I liked the Kinks. It was the first concert I ever went to. And I wrote him a letter just to tell him that I thought his satirical approach to social commentary was something that allowed me to look at my life with a sense of humor, and that I really appreciated that. [Sings “Sunny Afternoon”] They had a period of songs that for me, at that age, were about depression and how hard it could be when you’re trying to fit in. I always felt different as a kid, and the Kinks were like, Yeah, we’re the Kinks. Celebrate your difference, don’t be afraid of your sense of humor, or your personality, or who you are. It emboldened me.
The piece of pop culture memorabilia from your childhood you wish you still had?
MW: My Sean Connery autograph. It was a picture of him wearing this red sweater that was taken in Scotland. I got his autograph on the back of a business card, my mom’s friend had got it, and I put it with the photo on the door to my bedroom, literally Scotch-taped to the door. It said like [in Connery voice] “Good Luck, Michael.” He wrote my name. [To Bojana] You know that I got that ridiculous big, giant Sean Connery book last year on Amazon. And I have a big picture of Sean Connery in my office. I just love Sean Connery. But I went away to boarding school and my parents got the house painted. My parents left and the painters stripped everything down or whatever it is they do. I came back for Thanksgiving break, and I was like, “Where’s my Sean Connery autograph?” They’re like, “What?” I’m like, “It has been on my door for three years.” [To Bojana] It’s like Manny on Modern Family when Jay killed the turtle. The truth is, the minute I moved out, my father was like, “Thank God.” Rip. They’re like, “The painters must have thrown that out.” But I don’t miss anything else. That was the only thing they ruined for me.
[To Bojana] Birthday present.
MW: [To Bojana] While he’s still alive. It has to say “To Michael.”
What is your geekiest possession today?
MW: My geekiest possession might be a BBC series that ran for, I think, only two and a half years in the ’70s. It’s called The Sandbaggers… I don’t know if that’s my geekiest possession…
BJ: Michael loves to watch commentary on films and TV series. So I’ll often knock on the door, and he’ll be like, “Oh, I’m just watching a commentary on such-and-such scene.” That’s kind of your thing.
MW: By the way, as a sidebar, the best commentary out there, no holds barred, THE BEST — Jack Nicholson for Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 classic The Passenger. He is alone with his microphone and his memory. It is riveting. It’s better than Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits, which is fantastic.
BJ: You do a great impression.
MW: This is Jack, are you ready? [Leans in to tape recorder, in perfect Nicholson voice] “What I remember from those days in the African desert is the spectrum of colors that Michelangelo employed — would be something along the lines of a Da Vinci. What people tend to call movies these days, are really just a collection of melodramas, a collection of sentimental s—pile that I have no interest in watching. I’m fine being in them, Something’s Gotta Give.” Like that. I think they should rerelease the movie and just play the commentary. It feels like they’ve got this microphone right over his head, and he’s just going like, “I never thought that Michelangelo would be f—ing the script supervisor, it turns out she was his girlfriend. Fortunately, I only learned this after I spent three nights in a bordello with her somewhere in Somalia.” He disappeared with the director’s girlfriend for three days. They stopped production. And then they came back, and Jack’s like, “I didn’t realize that this was your girlfriend. My apologies, Michelangelo.” So anyway, that is geeky, being into commentaries.
Last question: What is your position on karaoke?
MW: Well, this is a complicated question you ask. I was in a karaoke video in 1991, for a song called “Sukiyaki,” which is a very famous Japanese song, and I’ve actually heard from people that they’ve been in bars in Asia where they’ve seen me come up in the “Sukiyaki” video that they play behind you. I’m in that. I’m in a karaoke video.
BJ: I didn’t know this.
MW: We shot it in Long Island. It was like me breaking up with this Asian girl, and she slaps me, and then we get back together and she cries. If it’s not on YouTube, someone should find it, because I’d like to see it again. [Laughs] I was really thin then. I looked really good. No, I think I looked a little bit like Jim J. Bullock or something. [To Bojana, who isn’t as into pop culture as he is] That’s a Too Close for Comfort reference. As my wife blankly stares at me. So that’s part 1. Part 2: I was in Kuching, Malaysia on the Sarawak River, also known as Borneo, in 2000, with Noah Taylor, an actor in Shine who played a younger version of Geoffrey Rush, and he did a karaoke version of “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix that was like spoken word devastation. I couldn’t believe what this guy did with “Hey Joe” in a room full of Malaysian people. He took the microphone stand and used it as machine gun. People were crying and talking about the Vietnam War. He got this standing ovation, it went on for three minutes. He was like a god. It’s the best karaoke thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And wherever he is on the planet Earth right now, he’s an incredibly talented actor, that’s one of the most stunning performances I’ve ever seen. Like forget Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking. This was like karaoke at its f—ing finest… That was halfway through a martini I got to this point. [Laughs] Ricki Lake and I used to sing karaoke at the Improv. It’s true, in 1991. She liked to do “Happy Together” by the Turtles. She’s got a great voice, and I was intimidated. I have done, in my life, maybe about five karaoke singalongs. None of them have been good. First of all, that guy in Malaysia set the bar so high. God— it. And Ricki was nearly impossible to top at the Improv. I mean when Ricki Lake in 1991 got up to sing “Happy Together,” the place would go bananas. Then it was like, “Up next, Marcus Weatherby.” I’d get up, “That was really good, Ricki.” You see everyone leaving the restaurant. She’s outside signing autographs. “I’m gonna sing, ‘Let It Be.'” [To Bojana] What song would you sing?
BJ: In karaoke? I’d probably go for Madonna.
MW: “Material Girl”? “Lucky Star”?
BJ: I always loved “Like a Prayer.” I actually sang it in a contest in fourth grade. [Laughs]
MW: Did you know that I know how to play that song on the guitar?
BJ: We should do a duet.
Do you really know how to play it?
MW: I do. Because there’s an artist, John Wesley Harding, who’s done “Like a Prayer” [acoustic]. That’s the thing that I really wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be like Ray Davies or John Wesley Harding or Elvis Costello. A man with a guitar, that’s what you want to be. Be a troubadour. And then I ended up being an investigator on a crime procedural.
You actually sang on subway platforms in New York when you were an out-of-work actor/waiter. What was your go-to song then?
MW: The best song you can sing in the subway — this is for future reference for anybody who wants to do it — is “Me & Julio Down By the Schoolyard.” In between trains [hums, then sings]. You just see everyone bobbleheading. [Sings more] And then it has the part [Whistles]. Any part of that song is great, but if you catch the audience on the platform at the right time, you’re gonna make about $30 in about 15 minutes.